Commission Approves Revised Drought Management Procedures

Posted on Feb 28, 2014

Commission Approves Revised Drought Management Procedures

At its February 27 open meeting the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved Resolution W-4976, Drought Procedures for Water Conservation, Rationing and Service Connection Moratoria. The resolution is based on Standard Practice U-40-W (SP-40) that prescribes the process to establish Tariff Rule 14.1 by which water utilities can introduce voluntary conservation measures. It also outlines Schedule 14.1, which provides for mandatory rationing if voluntary measures do not yield the necessary reduction in consumption or in circumstances of prolonged or severe drought.

The resolution directs all water utilities to add and activate, at a minimum, Tariff Rule 14.1 in their tariffs and to call for a voluntary 20 percent reduction in customer water use. The revised procedures now included in SP-40 have been updated with modifications from CPUC findings from previous proceedings.

In an effort to share information and promote consistency in regulatory compliance for water and sewer companies, the CPUC’s Division of Water and Audits (DWA) prepares standard practices describing the regulatory background and procedures for most of its major requirements and processes. SP-40 outlines the process for a utility to establish Rule 14.1 for voluntary conservation measures and establish and activate Schedule 14.1 for mandatory rationing. SP-40 was last revised in 2009.

The substantive revisions made to SP-40 now are based on CPUC findings from previous proceedings. In preparing the draft SP-40, DWA made a concerted effort to confine the proposed changes in the draft to the issues the CPUC already has reviewed and vetted in order to expedite the adoption of the procedures contained in SP-40 in light of the drought proclamation. The major issue identified in Resolution W-4781 concerns the delegation to DWA for the approval of new Tariff Rule 14.1 and Schedule 14.1 and the approval for activating these tariffs. The resolution resolves this issue by delegating authority for both the approval of adding Tariff Rule 14.1 and Schedule 14.1 to the utilities’ tariffs and the activation of these tariffs to DWA.

Those utilities with an existing Tariff Rule 14.1 were directed to immediately notify the Director of DWA of their intent to activate the voluntary conservation measures in compliance with the Emergency Drought Declaration’s Order Number 2, calling on all local urban water suppliers to immediately implement local water shortage contingency plans. Further, water utilities should comply with future directives under the Emergency Drought Declaration for either additional voluntary conservation measures or requirements for mandatory rationing.

The CPUC took comments on the resolution from all interested parties, including the California Water Association and the Office of Ratepayer Advocates. The final resolution reflects most of the comments received, and the CPUC’s new Resolution W-4976 contained these specific decision points:

  • The Drought Procedures for Water Conservation, Rationing and Service Connection Moratoria (formerly Standard Practice U-40-W) as amended by this resolution in response to comments and attached as Attachment A is approved.
  • All Class A and B water utilities that have an existing Tariff Rule 14.1 shall notify the Director of the DWA via a letter in both hard-copy and e-mailed formats within 30 days of the effective date of this resolution that they are activating Tariff Rule 14.1 calling for a 20 percent voluntary reduction in water use.
  • All Class A and B water utilities that do not have an existing Tariff Rule 14.1 shall file a Tier 2 advice letter within 30 days of the effective date of this resolution requesting to add a Tariff Rule 14.1 to their tariffs. Within five days of the DWA’s approval of the proposed Tariff Rule 14.1, utilities shall notify the Director of the DWA via a letter in both hard-copy and e-mailed formats that they are activating Tariff Rule 14.1 calling for a 20 percent voluntary reduction in water use.
  • Water utilities shall comply with future directives under the Emergency Drought Declaration for either additional voluntary conservation measures or requirements for mandatory rationing.

The full resolution and revised Standard Practice U-40-W can be accessed at: http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/PublishedDocs/Published/G000/M088/K631/88631281.pdf